FOXBORO, Mass. – This one just took a little longer.
Once again, the New England Patriots scored 38 points in yet another convincing victory.
The only surprise was that, for nearly a quarter of play, the Buffalo Bills actually held the lead, thanks in part to some new looks on both sides of the ball.
"Buffalo ran some new schemes on us and we had a little trouble adjusting to those," head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged in his post-game press conference, "but I thought our players did a good job in the end."
By halftime, the Patriots were 0-for-3 on third down conversions, 0-for-1 on fourth down conversions, and QB Tom Brady had lost a fumble on a quarterback sneak down at the Bills' goal line.
But New England was still ahead, 17-7. This offense is so good right now that it can overcome its own mistakes. It's just a matter of when.
"We picked it up there in the second half," Brady said after the game.
For one, they made Bills DE Aaron Schobel a non-factor. He typically has monster games against the Patriots. But not this Sunday.
"We certainly put enough guys over there to try to block him," Belichick noted. His quarterback agreed.
"I think the key to the game offensively was the offensive line, and the way they performed today was exceptional. It's kind of what they've been doing all year, but they were doing such a good job run-blocking, we had a lot of holes in the run game and they did a great job of pass-protection. That allowed us to hold onto the ball a little bit longer."
And when Brady decided to release the ball, he often did so in the direction of that new guy, WR Randy Moss (If you haven't heard, he's pretty good).
Moss' halftime stats: 2 catches for 7 yards. But eventually, you just knew he would do something to take everyone's breath away.
By game's end, he had 5 for 115, including two touchdowns. The second score one is the one that people were talking about afterwards – a dazzling 45-yarder from Brady down the right sideline.
The pass was thrown perfectly to Moss' outside shoulder, over the head of the Bills' cornerback who was tight on Moss' hip. But Number 81 just extended his long arms to save the ball from falling out of bounds. As the defender fell down, Moss jogged into the end zone.
"Man, that's incredible, man," CB Asante Samuel marveled when asked about the play. "Tom said, 'There's always a place to throw the ball to him.' I guess he's right."
"It was a great catch," Brady added. "It was a great call by Josh [McDaniels, the offensive coordinator]. My job is easy. You just have to throw it up there."
Brady's job was made even easier with an even stronger performance by the Pats ground attack. RB Laurence Maroney had his first 100-yard game of the season, while the three other backs (Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, and Heath Evans) each chipped in with double-digit totals.
New England's balanced offense is proving impossible for opposing defenses to stop.
"Thanks for coming, J.P. Please, have a seat."
That's basically how the Pats defense greeted Bills starting QB J.P. Losman Sunday afternoon.
Just three plays into the game, Losman limped off the field after two devastating hits (the first of which drew a roughing-the-passer penalty on DL Vince Wilfork). He fumbled on the second hit (a sack by CB Ellis Hobbs on a corner blitz), which the Pats recovered. And with that, Losman's afternoon was over.
On Buffalo's next possession, in came rookie QB Trent Edwards, who promptly led his team on an 80-yard touchdown drive.
"We had a couple of miscommunications," Samuel admitted. "But we settled down, and played together, and got it corrected."
Did they ever.
Despite having a bit of trouble containing Bills rookie RB Marshawn Lynch, New England never gave the Bills another serious opportunity to score. After their lone touchdown, the closest the Bills got to the Patriots end zone was midfield.
If there's a strength to this Bills team, it's their special teams, particularly their return game.
However, against the Patriots, Buffalo's Roscoe Parrish couldn't get loose, and fellow playmaker Terrence McGee was inactive. Their lack of productivity, coupled with Pats K Stephen Gostkowski's booming kickoffs, forced Buffalo to start most of their drives at or inside their own 20-yard line.
New England, on the other hand, had a great day returning kicks. WR Wes Welker's punt returns actually helped spark the Patriots' first two touchdown drives.
"You're right – Wes set up some great field position," Brady said.
"We haven't really done anything with the punt return game all year, including preseason," Belichick continued.
"We've worked hard the last couple of weeks, and we usually work on it one day a week. We've worked on it two, and one time even three days just to put more emphasis on it and try to improve. I think it all starts with getting those guys [the Bills] held up on the line of scrimmage. Wes made some good decisions."
The Patriots' confidence is getting stronger week-to-week, in part because the team is refusing to allow itself to be overconfident. More than ever, it seems, this team is focused only on the next opponent, the next play, the next practice.
And with each passing week, the new additions – Moss, Welker, LB Adalius Thomas, et al – are getting more and more comfortable with each other. Which means we haven't even seen New England at its best yet.